El Pais: Lo que Darwin no sabía “What Darwin Didn’t Know”

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We learn at the Discovery Institute Blog about a recent lecture tour in Spain by ID creationists

Over an eight day period last January, Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity (aka DoctorsDoubtingDarwin.com, a rapidly growing, 277-member, physician group from 17 countries) sponsored a lecture tour in Barcelona, Malaga, Madrid, Leon and Vigo. It was titled “Lo Que Darwin No Sabia,” or “What Darwin Didn’t Know.” Tom Woodward, Ph.D. (author of Doubts About Darwin and Darwin Strikes Back) and myself (author of What Darwin Didn’t Know and Billions of Missing Links) lectured on eight occasions to exceptionally large audiences. Santiago Escuain was our translator extraordinaire. Rich Akin, the CEO of PSSI, put in enormous hours into making this trip a huge success.

El Pais reports on the ‘successful’ Spain Tour of ‘Lo que Darwin no sabía’. Of course, the DI does admit later on that the success was limited.

I apologize for the translation which has been performed with the assistance of online translation services.

Lo que Darwin no sabía by Rebeca Díaz - Santiago de Compostela - 12/01/2008

Sin embargo, existen grupos con motivaciones religiosas, como el PSSI, que intentan crear confusión en gente poco informada.

However, there are religiously motivated groups, such as the PSSI, who are trying to create confusion in ill-informed people .

Wow, from the start, El Pais seems to get it right.

El que una universidad pública se convierta en un escaparate para el fanatismo religioso disfrazado de ciencia es inadmisible

The fact that a public university has become a showcase for religious fanaticism disguised as science is unacceptable.

Not bad either.

In Barcelona we hear how El desembarco en Barcelona de la doctrina ‘anti-Darwin’ fracasa Or “The landing of an ‘anti-Darwin’ doctrine fails in Barcelona”.

JCA - Barcelona - 18/01/2008 JCA - Barcelona - 18/01/2008

El inicio de la gira española del movimiento contra las teorías evolucionistas de Darwin nacido en Estados Unidos atrajo a más periodistas que a público.

The start of the Spanish tour of the movement against Darwin’s evolutionary theories born in the United States attracted more journalists than public.

Poco más de 25 personas entregadas a la causa, pastores evangelistas, profesores y algún curioso, como se autodefinió.

Just over 25 persons surrendered to the cause, evangelical pastors, teachers and some curious as myself.

The ever present link to creationism is quickly discovered

“Nosotros no somos creacionistas, simplemente consideramos que, a la luz de los avances científicos actuales, resulta una tomadura de pelo que se siga sustentado que la teoría de la evolución es la que da respuesta al origen y desarrollo de la vida en nuestro planeta”, asegura Antonio Martínez, oftalmólogo, el principal representante de PSSI en España.

“We are not creationists, we simply believe that in light of current scientific, it is a mockary that further underpinned that the theory of evolution is the answer to the origin and development of life on our planet” , says Antonio Martinez, ophthalmologist, and the main representative of PSSI in Spain.

No se atreve a ofrecer una alternativa a la teoría sintética de la evolución y niega cualquier vinculación con movimientos religiosos.

It does not dare to offer an alternative to the synthetic theory of evolution and denies any link with religious movements.

Sin embargo, si se le pregunta por otras asociaciones u organismos que respaldan este mensaje en España, remite a la página web de Servicio Evangélico de Documentación e Información (Sedin), en cuya portada aparece un enlace directo a la Coordinadora Creacionista.

However, if you inquire about other associations or agencies that support this message in Spain, one is refered to the website of Evangelical Service Documentation and Information (Sedin), in whose home appears a direct link to the Coordinator Creacionista.

Yes, funny how ID invariable traces back to creationism, even though they deny the obvious. .

Ante las críticas que han recibido las universidades por dar cabida a un acto que muchos científicos consideran contrario a toda norma académica, el decano de la Facultad de Biología de la Universidad de León, José Carlos Pena Álvarez, emitió un comunicado a primera hora de la mañana.

Faced with the criticism they have received by the universities to accommodate an act that many scientists believe contrary to the whole academic standard, the dean of the Faculty of Biology at the University of Leon, Jose Carlos Pena Alvarez, issued a statement early in the morning.

“El que me conoce sabe de mis convicciones evolucionistas”, explica Pena Álvarez, “pero también de mis ideas liberales, que me llevan a permitir y afrontar cualquier debate sobre cualquier materia y más sobre algo que es fundamental en la concepción de la biología”.

“Anyone who knows me knows my beliefs evolutionists,” explains Pena Alvarez, “but also my liberal ideas, which lead me to allow and address any debate on any subject and more about something that is central to the conception of biology” .

Por la tarde, y tras recibir otro comunicado de firme condena y oposición de la Sociedad Española de Biología Evolutiva (SESBE), firmado por su presidente Manuel Soler, el mismo decano aseguró que iba a realizar consultas con la Junta de Facultad: “Según se pronuncie reconsideraré, a pesar de todo, la oportunidad de que se celebre la conferencia”.

In the afternoon, and after receiving another announcement of strong condemnation and opposition from the Spanish Society for Evolutionary Biology (SESBE), signed by its chairman Manuel Soler, the same Dean said he was going to consult with the Faculty Council: “As reconsideraré rule, however, the opportunity to hold the conference. “

In ¿Desciende el hombre del mono? “Does man descend from monkeys?” we hear more details from Manuel Soler, a professor of Animal Biology at the University of Grenada and president of the Spanish Society for Evolutionary Biology.

During the month of January was organized in Spain a cycle of conferences under the title What Darwin did not know, has become the first major offensive launched by the ultra-religious groups seeking Americans, by the criticism of Evolutionary Theory, extend the idea that Creationism (in recent times called Intelligent Design, DI) can be considered a scientific theory.

Las “conferencias” no son tales, y mucho menos científicas; son actos propagandísticos perfectamente diseñados para persuadir a un público desprevenido y de profundas convicciones religiosas que suele ser el perfil de la mayor parte de los asistentes.

The “conference” are not such, and even less science; they are propaganda acts perfectly designed to persuade an audience unawares and deep religious convictions often fitting the profile of most attendees.

Una de las estrategias seguidas habitualmente por los fundamentalistas bíblicos en la organización de estos actos propagandísticos es intentar que sean impartidos en universidades u otras instituciones de carácter científico para, de esta forma, poder reivindicar el carácter de “científico”.

One of the strategies followed usually by biblical fundamentalists in the organization of propaganda is to attempt to have these acts taught at universities or other institutions of scientific nature, in this way, be able to claim the status of “scientific”.

En España lo habían conseguido en dos de las ciudades: León y Vigo.

In Spain thet had achieved it in two cities: Leon and Vigo.

Sin embargo, desde la Sociedad Española de Biología Evolutiva (http://www.sesbe.org) escribimos a las autoridades académicas correspondientes haciéndoles ver que se trataba de un fraude (lo que intentan es hacer pasar una idea de fuerte contenido religioso por una teoría propia del campo de la ciencia experimental) y las conferencias fueron canceladas.

However, since the Spanish Society for Evolutionary Biology (http://www.sesbe.org) wrote to the academic authorities for making them see that it was a fraud (which is trying to pass an idea of strong religious content for a theory in the field of experimental science) and the conferences were cancelled.

Read more at the Spanish version of Skeptic

I have access to some full length video of the events and will report back to you in more details as to the nature of the ‘scientific’ arguments proposed by Woodward and friends.

52 Comments

Something I have been thinking about for the last few months is that the NCSE needs a “NCSE SENIOR FELLOW” deal just like the DI pricks. Plus, NCSE needs to move international.

(I am availble).

The author of the DI posting was Geoffrey Simmons, who recently debated PZ Myers

What caught my eye is how Simmons refuses to discuss alternative explanations. It is starting to make sense. The DI’s wedge has failed and an ‘new’ alternative is needed and provided by the spin-off “Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity”. During the Spanish presentations there were repeated statements that this was not about ID and that the PSSI had nothing to do with religion.

Let’s therefor repeat PZ’s outstanding response to Simmons

For instance, here I am being asked to give the evidence for evolution in five minutes, which really just tells me how unaware people are of the subject. Would you ask a mathematician to come on and teach you how to do calculus in 5 minutes? Would you ask a plumber to come on and tell you how to completely plumb your house in 5 minutes? No. But evolution is a much more complicatedd subject than either of those topics. And then the other problem is what I experienced here. An hour and a half before the show I am old that the topic of the debate has completely changed. Now, that tells me that there is an utter lack of professionalism and integrity on the creationist side. [the host interjected briefly, the PZ continued] Well, you simply don’t do that. It’s not something you ever do in any kind of debate is change the ground rules while you’re running. Basically what that tells me is the people are unwilling to discuss the actual issues, and they’d rather play games to avoid the risk of a well-prepared critic. And so far you gotta realize I’m really unimpressed. [brief interruption by hosts]

So we’ve got this new question: Are Darwin’s theories fact or faith issues? Now we can’t blame this on the radio show hosts, this is Dr. Simmons’ fault. This is a terrible question. There’s a myth going around that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. This is a stupid question. First of all, I’d like Dr. Simmons to explain why he is so infatuated with Darwin. Darwin published the outline of his ideas almost 150 years ago. We respect his work, we think he was brilliant, but we also know there are many things he got wrong. We don’t adhere to Darwin’s theories any more. He provided a rough framework, but in the last century and a half we have filled in many details. It isn’t Darwin’s any more. It’s the work of generations of scientists, and while parts of it would be recognizable to Darwin were he alive today, most of it would astonish him. This isn’t about Darwin, it is about bioloy. so let’s change the subject of the debate a little bit.

and

So I am going to ask Dr simmons to be flexible and change the topic yet further. We have the evidence on our side. There are hundreds of papers published every week documenting the theory of evolution. I would like for him to eplain to the audience where his evidence is. Why should we regard intelligent design as anything other than faith-based reasoning, since he certainly has no mechanism by which his designer acts, nor does he have physical evidence of his designer’s existence. Biologists don’t have to defend evolution’s status as an idea build on the bedrock of “naturalism”. The onus is on Dr. Simmons to defend his claims honestly, with evidence and with facts that make sense.

So does he have anything other than his belief in the Bible to support the thesis of a designer? Let’s see something positive from the intelligent design/creationist side. Something besides dirty debating tactics, misbegotten and erroneous attacks on the theory of evolution, and vague mumblings about how an unnamed designer, could have poofed organisms into existence, by an unspecified mechanism at a mysterious time they don’t name. Let’s hear some specific science.

No wonder ID wants to avoid dealing with issues of science other than arguing that Darwin may have been wrong.

I’m available to set up an office in Perth with Gary.

I’d love to be involved with a Canadian office!

Ok, I will take the Dutch office. That’s the Netherlands for you Americans not Denmark, not Germany.…

Doc Bill:

I’m available to set up an office in Perth with Gary.

Well, did I win the big-fish-of-the-day derby today, but it did not quite amount to a senior fellowship. It did cover my galley tab and a bit over for the boat’s crew.

Maybe better luck tomorrow.

I read the originals in El País. The translations provided here faithfully render the meaning of the newspaper articles. The piece by Rebeca Díaz is an op-ed piece rather than a news article, however. It is heartening that a highly respected newspaper such as El País publishes such an op-ed without qualms.

The article partially cited in the fifth box (the one that starts with “We are not creationists,…”) is an actual news report that thoroughly exposes the provenance of the anti-Darwin lectures and the controversies it has created. Its headline is very descriptive: “El creacionismo llega a España” (“Creationism arrives in Spain”) and has a great subheading: “Un movimiento contra la evolución nacido en EE UU se da a conocer en foros de debate y universidades españolas, que meditan cerrarle sus puertas.” (A movement against evolution born in the USA introduces itself to the public in debate venues and Spanish universities, which consider closing their doors to the movement.”)

Due to an entirely unnecessary impasse over trivial matters (e.g. relocation costs, expenses, renumeration), I must inform you that the South of France position remains vacant.

During the Spanish presentations there were repeated statements that this was not about ID and that the PSSI had nothing to do with religion.

The DI’s master plan must not be going to well, if people are starting to deny that they’re associated with ID in the same breath that they deny being creationists.

First of all, I’d like Dr. Simmons to explain why he is so infatuated with Darwin. Darwin published the outline of his ideas almost 150 years ago. We respect his work, we think he was brilliant, but we also know there are many things he got wrong. We don’t adhere to Darwin’s theories any more. He provided a rough framework, but in the last century and a half we have filled in many details. It isn’t Darwin’s any more.

For that matter, it wasn’t strictly about Darwin to begin with. AIUI, Lemarck published *his* theory of evolution 199 years ago. Creationists think it’s all about “Darwinism”, not realizing that the real threat to their beliefs is a fact that people were already trying to explain the year Darwin was born.

PvM:

Ok, I will take the Dutch office. That’s the Netherlands for you Americans not Denmark, not Germany.…

That’s funny, I thought Dutch referred to Holland, not the Netherlands!

(KIDDING!)

In all seriousness, I would recommend that evolution defenders outside the USA follow the grassroots structure of the NCSE itself rather than mimicking the Dis Institute. Having a regional organization is an effective way to rally like-minded locals in dealing with local issues. For example, the Florida Citizens for Science have been instrumental in opposing the efforts by anti-evolutionists to compromise the new state science standards. It allows you to interface with other regional pro-science organizations. For example, the Texas Citizens for Science and the Texas Freedom Network joined forces to support candidates in two crucial primary elections for the Texas State Board of Education. Thus, there could be Citizens for Science groups in Canadian provinces, Australian states and territories, and so on.

Let’s not exaggerate the threat to rationality posed by ID creationism, at least in Europe. While we have more than out share of pseudoscientific contrarians and prelapsarian headbangers, the Evolution Wars are generally seen as a US political issue and the product of specifically US conditions. Also, we have a long tradition of centrally controlled school curricula being set by technocratic education departments. The only EU country where creationism seems to have had any political success is the UK, where Blair’s preference for spin over spine led to him acceding to religiously-distorted curricula. Given the ignimony in which he is now regarded throughout the EU, I wouldn’t expect other politicians to go far down that path any time soon.

My observation is that Europeans have plenty of pseudoscience of their own. A friend of mine follows Radio France news quite closely, and because of that I’m aware of frequent illogical and over-enthusiastic pieces about extraterrestrial life in that source. Yes, incredibly, it seems to be even more than we see here. No, I can’t back that up with numbers, it’s a subjective observation, and someone may correct me, but I’ll see. This is not intended as a serious comment on the subject of extraterrestrial life, but merely as an observation that one European society seems to generate a lot of low quality journalism on the matter.

But fundamentalist Protestant creationism and its mini-me clone ID tend to be most “successful” in Anglophone countries. There is also an even more minor association with Spanish-language countries, which I assume is due to the close ties between the US and Latin America.

What I do find non-comical and concerning here is that some physicians are associating medicine with ID. Note that “277 members in 17 countries” is a very small number, but one is too many. I am a physician (not practicing any more), and I think that the medical profession must - and I suspect, will - take greater measures to make the connection between modern medicine and mainstream science more clear.

It may be possible to be technically competent in a medical specialty while denying evolution, but medicine is full of things that make no sense except in the light of mainstream biology including very much the theory of evolution - infectious disease, genetic diseases, human anatomy and physiology, etc.

Amadan Wrote:

While we have more than out share of pseudoscientific contrarians and prelapsarian headbangers,…

What’s wrong with headbangers, that you group them with pseudoscientific contrarians?

…Blair’s preference for spin over spine …

LOL!

Doesn’t matter how you slice it, or what language you use, ID es muy estupido, y El Doctor Dembski es muy poopypantalones, el Doctor “Luna” Wells is muy gordo y fea.

The DI’s wedge has failed and an ‘new’ alternative is needed and provided by the spin-off “Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity”. During the Spanish presentations there were repeated statements that this was not about ID and that the PSSI had nothing to do with religion.

Ah, and there is also:

Geoffrey Simmons Wrote:

Although some newspapers referred to us as Creationists, religion and Intelligent Design were only discussed from a historical perspective.

Nice, quietly admitting that ID was Creationism with a large C all the time, and calmly suggesting that it is a passed stage at the same time. “Don’t worry - the message is still getting out there.”

I wouldn’t be too concerned about the diversification (“academic freedom” in US, “scientific integrity” for the rest) or about the propensity for pseudoscience in Europe or other places - it is a large world out here. Containment is not an option (albeit anti-pseudoscience and science are good antidotes), and this is an infection of the collective meme set with a definitive source.

PT is doing a good job of tracking the disease as it evolves new traits, and it is needed to successfully whack at the source.

the PZ continued

I like that speling. Assuming it isn’t an accidental deification or idolization, I take it as a mutational phenomenalization.

It has passed the Pharyngula stage, now it is [fanfare] ***THE PZ!!!*** [/fanfare]

Doctors do not have the best track record of being scientists, as one example physicians repeatedly held out against the germ theory of disease.

Nigel D:

Amadan Wrote:

While we have more than out share of pseudoscientific contrarians and prelapsarian headbangers,…

What’s wrong with headbangers, that you group them with pseudoscientific contrarians?

Not referring here to those waving a greasy mop while performing fret-shredding fingerwork on a West Brom Albion scarf. (How could I betray the halcyon days of my youth?)

Think instead of the Gumby “My Braaaaain Huuuurts” sort. There is a difference. I hope.

Amadan Wrote:

Not referring here to those waving a greasy mop while performing fret-shredding fingerwork on a West Brom Albion scarf. (How could I betray the halcyon days of my youth?)

Think instead of the Gumby “My Braaaaain Huuuurts” sort. There is a difference. I hope.

Got it. That’s that one cleared up. Now, where’s my Rammstein CD…?

JGB:

Doctors do not have the best track record of being scientists, as one example physicians repeatedly held out against the germ theory of disease.

And Edward Jenner’s programme of “vaccination” was extensively mocked. I guess he (metaphorically) had the last laugh when smallpox was eradicated.

I like the way you spell “programme” Nigel!

Nigel D:

And Edward Jenner’s programme of “vaccination” was extensively mocked. I guess he (metaphorically) had the last laugh when smallpox was eradicated.

We need legislation mandating that any Doctor who is a member of this organization - “Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity” - , display this information next to their business license.

Evolutionary thought has been making serious inroads into medical research over the last few decades. Not because of ideology, but because they are a useful framework for understanding relevant biology.

1.

Yesterdays post Mike Dunford blog, raven:

Incidentially, the current model for oncogenesis is an evolutionary one. Somatic cells are seen escaping growth control, evading host defenses such as macrophages, acquiring a blood supply, metastasizing, becoming resistant to radiation therapy, chemo, and biologicals, and rarely as with Canine Venereal tumor or Tasmanian Facial Tumor acquiring the ability to spread beyond the host as parasitic diseases. The number of mutations involved in this process is a matter of research right now but estimates are trending up from a few to greater than 10.

Cancer will kill 100 million of the people now alive in the USA. And Egnor says evolution isn’t important in medicine. Whatever, he has a 1 in 3 chance of finding out the hard way that it does.

2. The other critical issue is emerging diseases. We now know that as much of the large animal biomass on the planet, humans represent a huge ecological niche for any ambitious pathogens. We’ve seen this with HIV, SARS, and are now fighting an avian flu potential pandemic. If one of these gets away, looking at tens of millions of deaths. Already one did, HIV/AIDS.

Some of the old guard, emphasis on old, resent this for religious reasons. Guys like Simmons and Egnor. Best I can say is they will die off eventually.

The thing to realize is that defeating ideological nonsense will be a long process. 400 years after Copernicus when we have telescopes in orbit, robots on Mars, and a space probe around Saturn, 20% of the US population still thinks the sun goes around the earth. 400 years from now while we may be launching interstellar probes to earthlike planets, 20% of the US population will still believe in creationism.

Just have to keep repeating the truth and hope the creos don’t derail everything with another Dark Age.

The thing to realize is that defeating ideological nonsense will be a long process. 400 years after Copernicus when we have telescopes in orbit, robots on Mars, and a space probe around Saturn, 20% of the US population still thinks the sun goes around the earth. 400 years from now while we may be launching interstellar probes to earthlike planets, 20% of the US population will still believe in creationism.

Just have to keep repeating the truth and hope the creos don’t derail everything with another Dark Age.

It would be nice if less than 20% of Americans were “scientifically illiterate,” but I have to believe that to most of these people, details about which goes around which are simply irrelevant to their day-to-day lives. As was pointed out on another thread not long ago, half the population will always have an IQ under 100. Those of us to whom the issue is important tend to overlook the fact that there are myriad occupations, many of which we depend upon every day, in which people whom we would consider appallingly ignorant in matters that we hold dear simply have no reason to care. To take an example from famous fiction, I believe there’s a passage in a Sherlock Holmes story where Dr. Watson stumbles across the fact that the great detective is ignorant of the fact that the sun does not go around the Earth. It’s not that Holmes is dogmatically upholding some idea of Biblical inerrancy or anything, it’s that the matter is simply of no importance to him in his little corner of the world.

These are not the people who should be seen as our primary adversaries in the struggle against religious intrusion into science education, nor are they properly claimed as allies by our true opponents, try as they might. Go ahead, cite your surveys, but it’s not the people who happen to believe nonsense but don’t really care about spreading it that we should be primarily worried about.

And WRT a new Dark Age, if today’s technological infrastructure doesn’t crash, I don’t think the dogmatic creos have much of a chance in the wide world. We just need to make sure that the don’t-know-and-don’t-care folks don’t overwhelm the infrastructure.

It would be nice if less than 20% of Americans were “scientifically illiterate,” but I have to believe that to most of these people, details about which goes around which are simply irrelevant to their day-to-day lives. As was pointed out on another thread not long ago, half the population will always have an IQ under 100.

One can be apallingly ignorant and still get by in the USA. On the WC, I occasionally run into people who are:

1. Illiterate

2. Speak Spanish but not English.

3. Are both illiterate and don’t speak English.

Some of the Mayan and Mixtec immigrants don’t even speak or understand Spanish very well.

That is neither here nor there as long as they or their much more numerous English speaking counterparts in ignorance don’t end up running things or impeding the rest of us.

Why is not speaking English “apallingly ignorant?” My Mayan is very rusty after 30+ years of disuse, but my Spanish is still rather good.

Raven -

Thank for making these points, here and I believe on another blog.

All of the following medical topics are closely connected to the theory of evolution -

1) Infectious disease (evolution of pathogens, evolution of inflammatory and immune defenses, antibiotics - sulfa drugs came from the cloth-dye industry but everything in the penicillin family and a number of other major families is based on “natural” antibiotics evolved by fungi and bacteria in “the wild” and exploited and studied by humans - antibiotic resistance of course…)

2) Autoimmune diseases, since there would be no immune system if we didn’t have to evolve resistance to pathogens.

3) Genetic diseases

4) Neoplasia, as I believe you mentioned somewhere. The obvious roles of mutation and selection in neoplasia are striking. Neoplasia is a potential problem of all multi-cellular organisms and related to the very essence of multi-cellularity - regulating individual cell development and behavior so that specialized roles coordinate to serve the “interests” of the whole organism.

5) Plenty of other topics that relate to the “imperfect”, evolved nature of the human body, including topics in trauma, OB-GYN, reproductive medicine, etc.

Medical doctors denying evolution is just really annoying.

I may be a bit more of a science nerd than the average person with an MD, but there are a lot more like me out there, than there are ID nutjobs with MD degrees.

Medical doctors tend to be busy, and the fine points of evolution are not necessarily their subject of expertise. Nevertheless, if this stupidity keeps up, there will almost certainly be a backlash in the medical community.

Surgery is kind of like art or music in one way, that it requires physical skills as well as cognitive talents, and that those who are especially brilliant at it may, for some reason, choose to indulge in eccentric and obnoxious behavior much of the time. That just seems to be part of the predictable spectrum of human behavior. Indeed, some surgeons are even referred to as “Prima Donnas”. There will always be Egnors of some sort, although “ID” may not always be their issue.

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Medical doctors denying evolution is just really annoying.

The creos really picked the wrong target. Evolutionary thought is critical in medical research and also in the other biotechnology, agriculture. It only matters if people want to live a long life and eat.

They really should have chosen astronomy or geology or something. One can live their entire life without understanding the Big Bang without any consequences whatsoever. Plus, it is someone else’s turn to get picked on and harassed. Their mythology is contradicted by all sciences, a point most of them either haven’t figured out or just ignore.

raven wrote:

They really should have chosen astronomy or geology or something. One can live their entire life without understanding the Big Bang without any consequences whatsoever. Plus, it is someone else’s turn to get picked on and harassed. Their mythology is contradicted by all sciences, a point most of them either haven’t figured out or just ignore.

Except in most of the creationist texts I have read they do object to mainstream geology and astronomy among others. It’s just that they group all science that they disagree with under the pejorative of Darwinism. I have always found it humorous that much of what Creationists are fighting has nothing to do with Darwin’s main field of study, Biology. In fact it seems more that they disagree with scientific methodology than anything else because the vast majority of the objective evidence contradicts their presupposition.

Harold,

It’s worse thatn that. When designing and evaluating public health policies, you also need to consider the effects of relaxed selection using principles of evolutionary biology. So for example, the effect on allele frequencies of C-section deliveries, appendectomies, tonsilectomies, etc. can be predicted and should be considered when determining when and where to use these procedures. Inappropriate use can lead to increased health problems and increased costs for health care in the future.

Of course you can just stick your head in the sand and ignore the predictable consequences of your actions. But then you would be no better than the average creationist.

Raven said,

They really should have chosen astronomy or geology or something.

Oh, please, don’t send them our way!

You seem to greatly enjoy the Spanish newspaper comments regarding the PSSI events. Unfortunately you weren’t able to show the picture with the article you quoted on the Barcelona events, which showed a section of empty seats with one person sitting in the middle. The picture was as factual as the verbiage, which stated the events attracted more journalists than the public with just over 25 attending. The attendance in Barcelona was in fact 261 and the picture was taken about an hour before the event began. I know because I was there. While that article was was the worst journalism I’ve seen, there were actually some very good articles on the events in Spain by Spanish periodicals, but I wouldn’t expect you to publish them.

Rich Wrote:

The attendance in Barcelona was in fact 261…

How do you know so precisely?

Rich, some evidence of your claims, please.

Is the Rich who counted to 261 identical to Rich Akin, the CEO of PSSI? Please link to the “some very good articles on the events in Spain by Spanish periodicals”, as we can see what periodicals those are.

Gary Hurd:

Why is not speaking English “apallingly ignorant?” My Mayan is very rusty after 30+ years of disuse, but my Spanish is still rather good.

Gary, if you live in a country where Spanish is the official and predominant language, English is not needed. When you immigrate to a country where English is both the official and predominant language, then it is apalling ignorance to not acquire the ability to speak and read English, if only to a rudimentary standard.

Rich Wrote:

While that article was was the worst journalism I’ve seen,

Why, because it points out the truth about IDC being in contradiction to reality?

there were actually some very good articles on the events in Spain by Spanish periodicals, but I wouldn’t expect you to publish them

Again, why? Why do you consider them to be good? You are quite obviously partisan, so what makes them “good”? That they support your point of view? Or that they were genuinely high-quality, incisive investigative journalism?

If the last, let’s have some relevant excerpts translated for discussion here.

Rich wrote:

You seem to greatly enjoy the Spanish newspaper comments regarding the PSSI events. Unfortunately you weren’t able to show the picture with the article you quoted on the Barcelona events, which showed a section of empty seats with one person sitting in the middle. The picture was as factual as the verbiage, which stated the events attracted more journalists than the public with just over 25 attending. The attendance in Barcelona was in fact 261 and the picture was taken about an hour before the event began. I know because I was there. While that article was was the worst journalism I’ve seen, there were actually some very good articles on the events in Spain by Spanish periodicals, but I wouldn’t expect you to publish them.

I understand your frustration. You Creationists are trying to get a message out in Spain but the only people who seem to care are the ones who have already bought into the message (preaching to the choir so do speak). Now you have a mainstream journal undermining your efforts to proselytize by claiming that it is a Creationist conference that has nil in the way of support from the scientific community, the audacity. I know it is hard to understand that the majority of people aren’t understanding of your unevidenced unscientific religious position. I for one can hardly understand why everyone doesn’t just abandon a well established scientific theory that is supported by overwhelming objective evidence for a position that basically says, “Evolution can’t happen, hence Goddidit” without offering a shred of evidence. Good luck in your fight against science and your goal to get people to deny reality in favor of the “Truth”.

Rich, Would you care to name the publications? or link to online articles?

When you immigrate to a country where English is both the official and predominant language, then it is apalling ignorance to not acquire the ability to speak and read English, if only to a rudimentary standard. [emphasis mine]

OT, but sorry: English is not the official language of the States, as the U.S. hasn’t got an official language. Though you have to pass a rudimentary English reading-writing test to naturalize.

David Stanton -

When designing and evaluating public health policies, you also need to consider the effects of relaxed selection using principles of evolutionary biology. So for example, the effect on allele frequencies of C-section deliveries, appendectomies, tonsilectomies, etc. can be predicted and should be considered when determining when and where to use these procedures. Inappropriate use can lead to increased health problems and increased costs for health care in the future.

I’ve tended to strongly agree with your posts in the past. You’ve often made the same logical point I was about to make.

I’m a bit confused here. This almost seems to be an argument for denying these treatments, bordering on a mistaken eugenic argument that they allow the “wrong” alleles to increase in the population. I assume and hope that I’m misreading.

All of these procedures are overused, but appendectomy and C-section are life-saving when indicated. Appendectomy is fairly harmless; it’s appropriate to have low threshold of suspicion for acute appendicitis in some circmstances.

There are two critical caveats here. The first is that, although every malady has some genetic component, most also have an environmental component as well.

In fact, many things with an obvious genetic component, like myopia, wisdom tooth impaction, allergies, asthma, obesity, and the like, occur in all industrial populations (*I’m not even sure that acute appendicitis has a clear genetic component at all, beyond the fact that you have to be genetically human to get it*). And they pop up in populations that go from pre-industrial to industrial or post-industrial living. Native Americans have a high rate of these issues, but seem to have had a near zero rate in earlier times. So the genes were probably there all along (indeed, it’s ludicrous to consider that the disorders are entirely due to new mutations in the course of three generations, and most unlikely that even substantial assimilation of European genes is the only explanation). One could actually argue that NOT treating these disorders would put post-industrial humans under excessive selective pressure that hunter-gatherer populations don’t face. Furthermore, we don’t know that letting these issues go untreated would decrease the reproductive rate of people who at least carry the alleles.

Eugenics and related arguments fail on the objective grounds that the implied policies would not achieve their ostensible goals even if moral objections were cast to the wind. This was dramatically demonstrated by population genetics based on Mendelian models, even before the molecular biology era.

But the far stronger argument against denying treatments is the ethical argument.

Science tells us how the physical world works, it most certainly does not tell us what we “should” do. Science told us that sending humans to the moon would be a very costly and economically unproductive endeavor. But we did it anyway.

Since my personal ethical system is not violated by early termination of pregnancies, I see that as the best option where a purely genetic problem that will create substantial, untreatable suffering is at hand (assuming that gene therapy is not available as a better solution, which is usually the case for now). However, I very strongly respect the views of others who do not feel this way, and gladly accept the social cost of caring for those who have any serious medical problem.

I’m sure I’ve entirely mistaken your meaning, and that you didn’t meant to imply anything remotely like what I’ve read into your post. Apologies in advance for that.

(The ethical dilemma of the future may be the less distressing, but still difficult, one of “positive eugenics” - should we be allowed to “give” people genes for athletic or musical performance, and the like? Some genes associated with gross “athletic” abilities like aerobic endurance or heavy muscle mass are already known. Note that these traits are considered “superior” only due to subjective human opinion, and that these particular alleles were NOT selected for extensively in human evolution. As sticky as this problem is, its ethical implications pale relative to the ethical implication of old-time eugenicism. It may well be bad to try to “enrich” the genes of human embryos for height, muscularity, endurance, or other traits, but it is not as bad as trying to maltreat fellow humans in an effort to “eliminate negative alleles”.)

JGB -

Doctors do not have the best track record of being scientists, as one example physicians repeatedly held out against the germ theory of disease.

This is a grossly unfair statement.

Some of the early opponents of germ theory were among the top scientific contributors of their generation in other areas. A new idea is not necessarily instantly accepted. But the evidence won out.

Medicine is a field of applied science, but it is one field where basic science has constantly been applied rigorously, rapidly, and successfully.

Plenty of science-denying crackpots (real crackpots who deny established science, not those who are later shown to have been excessively skeptical of a new idea that eventually proves itself) have PhDs or other degrees in basic sciences like physics.

Harold, You are of course correct. C-sections can indeed be life saving. However, if unnecessary C-sections are performed without regard for the genetic consequences, that would be irresponsible. So yes, in a sense I am arguing that sometimes it is better not to perform a certain procedure. Just like, for example, it is not advisable to indiscrimately use antibiotics when they will not be effective. There will be predictable negative consequences to that as well.

Remember, I did not say that such procedures should never be performed, only that they will have predictable genetic consequences. Not considering those consequences is reckless and irresponsible. Deciding what to do once you have considered the consequences is a matter of personal choice and public policy. My point was merely that the consequences are predicted using population genetics equations and evolutionary theory.

By the way, I have the utmost respect for your opinions and I highly value your input.

David Stanton -

Glad to hear that we don’t disagree on this, as I suspected.

I’m not entirely sure what the genetic consequences of unecessary c-sections (of which there are many - c-sections, that is, not consequences) would be. But let’s leave that aside, as it’s quite off topic.

(NOTE - Some would argue that there are very few c-sections which are not indicated. I base my assumption that many are uneccessary due to the variation in c-section frequency by political boundaries, with the US having far more than some otherwise similar countries. However, it is a complex issue. Those who do the C-sections might argue that there were net benefits. I include this further allusion to an off-topic subject merely to be sure of fairness.)

Another clarification -

I said “thank you” to Raven because I appreciate his/her frequent and articulate defense of the absolute link between mainstream science and mainstream medicine.

I don’t really agree that illiteracy or not speaking English are traits that deserve condemnation. Of course people in the US would be far better off speaking English and being literate. But these are examples of cultural effects of deprivation. What annoys me far more is the deliberate and inexcusable ignorance of “big word” type creationists. (I also tend to have more sympathy with “creationists” who are the misled victims of educational deprivation than with the likes of Dembski.)

The only good thing about my “Spanish” is that it makes my “French” look good in comparison. Although one nice thing about learning any Spanish is that it is very easy to read, being far more logical in spelling than English. I could have fixed those “translations” up a little, but the points were obvious.

GuyeFaux:

When you immigrate to a country where English is both the official and predominant language, then it is apalling ignorance to not acquire the ability to speak and read English, if only to a rudimentary standard. [emphasis mine]

OT, but sorry: English is not the official language of the States, as the U.S. hasn’t got an official language. Though you have to pass a rudimentary English reading-writing test to naturalize.

By “official” language, I don’t mean an officially-sanctioned language. I mean the language in which official documents (e.g. bills proposed for legislature) are written.

[pedant mode on]

Harold Wrote:

Science told us that sending humans to the moon would be a very costly and economically unproductive endeavor. But we did it anyway.

I beg to differ.

Engineering told us that getting to the moon would be difficult. Economics tells us that difficult engineering problems tend to have expensive solutions.

Science told us that, not knowing how the moon was formed, we were more likely to find decisive evidence on the moon than on Earth. Science also elucidated the nature of the engineering challenges to be oversome (e.g. measuring the extent and flux of the Van Allen belts; the instability of combustion in very large rocket motors).

Politics told us that going to the moon was a good idea. Science gave us an excuse. :-)

Getting back on topic, here is something else that Darwin didn’t know. He didn’t know anything about genetics. He didn’t know that it would take many years for his ideas to be reconciled with modern genetics. He didn’t know that his ideas would be spectacularly confirmed by independent genetic evidence. He didn’t know that modern genetics would allow us to rigorously investigate questions that he could not even dream of asking. But most of all, he didn’t realize that even after this virtually unprecedented confirmation of his ideas, that there would still be religious fanatics who refused to look at the evidence in order to cling to their outdated and disproven views of reality. I imagine that if he had known this, he would be very sad but not in the least surprised.

Nigel D -

That’s very pedantic :-).

I disagree that you can divorce “science” from “engineering” so easily. Every step of every detail of the Apollo program required reference to basic science.

I’ll even argue that economics could be considered an observational science. The unfortunate tradition of twisting their own field to serve political agendas should be considered a knock on economists, not economics.

Anyway, though, it doesn’t really matter. That was just an example. The real point was that science doesn’t tell us what we should or shouldn’t do. It tells us, in many cases, what will happen if we behave in a certain way. But it’s up to us to decide if that’s good or bad.

Getting back on topic, here is something else that Darwin didn’t know. He didn’t know anything about genetics.

That’s an irony I hadn’t thought of.

To a large degree, it’s what Darwin didn’t know that makes him such a revered figure.

Actually, if you know about modern molecular genetics, it’s obvious that life HAS TO evolve. It has to. Reproduction has to lead to genetic variation. Some variation has to be expressed at the phenotypic level. When there are variable phenotypes in the same environment, sometimes, some of them have to have a selective advantage or disadvantage.

The fact that Darwin anticipated all this long before that genetics was known is what makes him a great figure in science.

We are waiting for Rich to link to the very good articles on the events in Spain by Spanish periodicals, or at least mention the periodicals and the titles of those articles.

Heleen:

We are waiting for Rich to link to the very good articles on the events in Spain by Spanish periodicals, or at least mention the periodicals and the titles of those articles.

I have been looking for them as well, other than an occasional creationist site, I have not found much of anything.

Amadán:

Let’s not exaggerate the threat to rationality posed by ID creationism, at least in Europe. While we have more than out share of pseudoscientific contrarians and prelapsarian headbangers, the Evolution Wars are generally seen as a US political issue and the product of specifically US conditions. Also, we have a long tradition of centrally controlled school curricula being set by technocratic education departments. The only EU country where creationism seems to have had any political success is the UK, where Blair’s preference for spin over spine led to him acceding to religiously-distorted curricula. Given the ignimony in which he is now regarded throughout the EU, I wouldn’t expect other politicians to go far down that path any time soon.

I both agree and disagree. While the teachers, in France at least, are overwhelmingly on the side of science, they are encountering more and more opposition in the classrooms from the students, and they sometimes are unsure about how to react. We currently have to give courses to the teachers about creationism to give them answers to these. So even if the creationist ideas don’t reach them through school, they still hear them somewhere…

Agnes D.

Agnes D:

We currently have to give courses to the teachers about creationism to give them answers to these. So even if the creationist ideas don’t reach them through school, they still hear them somewhere…

What are some of the things that you teach the teachers? :-)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on March 12, 2008 7:56 PM.

Two Things that Don’t Go Together: Michael Egnor and Intellectual Integrity was the previous entry in this blog.

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